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God particle hunt breakthrough expected TODAY

Cancel lunch - significant Higgs boson data promised

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Expect an update on modern science's understanding of the fabric of the universe this lunchtime: physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider will announce their latest findings at 1300 GMT.

The boffins will reveal whether or not their results indicate the existence of the Higgs boson, the "god particle" that gives mass to some particles. The seminar will be webcast from Geneva and a press statement issued at 1430 GMT.

They are not expected to confirm anything conclusive but from a CERN pre-seminar announcement, it seems that the results will be significant:

These results will be based on the analysis of considerably more data than those presented at the summer conferences, sufficient to make significant progress in the search for the Higgs boson, but not enough to make any conclusive statement on the existence or non-existence of the Higgs.

There are two experiments at CERN testing for the Higgs boson: Atlas and CMS. Each uses different methods to search for the particle.

How the findings correlate will be vital in ruling whether a telltale spike in readings is a statistical anomaly or evidence of the particle's existence.

However, it's likely the data available now will be below the bar needed to prove a discovery. The two experiments are only pinpoint the particles at a rate of 2.5 to 3.5 sigma (the measure of statistical certainty). As the Reg reported last week: "At 2.5 sigma, there is a 1 per cent chance that the results are a fluke, and at 3.8 sigma, that chance drops to 0.01 per cent."

The experts hope to have gathered enough data by March to be sure of the finding.

If the results don't find the Higgs where it is expected to be, that would be an even more dramatic discovery, meaning that current physics theory would have to be rethought. It's a possibility - there are some gaps within Higgs' Standard Model theory.

Tune into CERN at 1pm GMT for an update. ®

Bootnote

You can catch the findings from the presentation here.

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